ASHLEY'S BLOG

CANCER: WHAT IS PAIN? PAIN LET'S ME KNOW I AM STILL ALIVE - PART 2

CANCER: WHAT IS PAIN? PAIN LET'S ME KNOW I AM STILL ALIVE - PART 2

The last weekend of my pre-cancer life was fantastic. I had spent the entire weekend hiking in a little hippie town 90 minutes north of us with Jacob and our Danes. Friday night I had been playing with Jacob and the dogs when my neck got popped into a weird position. There was an audible pop, like those heard only when sprains and tears occur, but no pain, no tenderness... just a large lump. Thinking I had probably pulled a muscle in my neck but didn't quite "feel it" yet I took a hot shower and went to bed without thinking further.

Saturday morning we got up and got dressed to go hiking I noticed the lump was much more prominent. Like an egg stuck under my skin, in the hollow of my right collarbone, alongside my neck it protruded but still didn't hurt to be touched. Weird, but I put a scarf on and thought nothing more as we hiked all day. I was in a great mood, felt fine, and happy. The next morning when I awoke the lump was still there and still the same size so I went to show my mom, who also happens to be a nurse. She advised a hot shower which did help calm the muscles surrounding the lump and pull it down smaller temporarily. I was left with "if it's still like that, call the doctor in the morning."

Monday, February 1st I woke up with an egg shaped lump in my neck the same size if not bigger than it had been the whole weekend prior. Still I went to work and called for an emergency appointment, at 10am, with one of my doctor's partners. I left school that day early and had no idea I would never work another normal day at MAIA again this school year.

I went from the GP's office thinking I had a hematoma needing to be drained to the surgeon's office immediately following my GP appointment. (In hind sight, two emergency appointments in the same day is never going to be good...) The surgeon took one look at my neck and gruffly ordered a CT with contrast done on my neck to determine the composition of my "egg".

Over the next 9 days I had multiple tests run, blood drawn, scans run, and biopsies performed on the "hard body located in my neck". On February 11th the surgeon called the house, asked for mom and I to be put on speakerphone both and told me I had Hodgkins Lymphoma, as diagnosed by the pathology report on the samples taken from my egg. He assured us the best care would happen, told me I would be seeing him again for port surgery, and then referred me to a hematological oncologist. The whole phone call was maybe five minutes long.

I remember the first feeling was relief. Finally I had an answer to why I didn't feel good. I knew I wasn't making it up and it wasn't in my head. So now I finally had a diagnosis. The next few hours I went through every emotion in the book trying to tell myself "I have cancer" or "I got cancer somehow." I waited until my fiance came home to tell him, but he too was relieved and instantly battle ready. We had both seen this...cancer...messing with me for months if not years and were done with it. Now it had a name and we were finding out it was a curable cancer.

Mini PSA:
"Be happy. You got the good cancer. It's curable." THERE IS NO GOOD CANCER. Please stop saying this to Hodgkin's patients. It is still chemo and radiation tx we have to go through. We still lose our hair and have all the side effects. Do not say my cancer is easy or joyful simply because it can be cured. There is a long road between diagnosis and NED on scans.

Between Feb 11-Feb 26 I had over 14 different procedures, scans, more blood draws, labs, and doctor's appointments. I was finally diagnosed with anxiety when during this 15 day stretch from hell I wound up in the ER with a HR of 199 sustained. I couldn't get my heart to calm down and we eventually found out I was having raging panic attacks for which I was put on 2 medications. So now before I've even begun the most toxic drugs of all, chemotherapy, I'm already adding another 2 drugs to the list. My medication list previously consisted of: multivitamin - daily, Motrin - as needed, and now here it was growing already. The stress and the pure panic of having 3 surgeries and 2 big scans in the same week was too much mentally. I couldn't take it. And this was my first hint that cancer was going to be way more than physical fatigue or soreness.

Thank you for reading this blog. More about my Cancer Journey soon.